If we are to live in this ever increasingly digital world by integrating and utilizing all the technical advances, attempt to become more green, acknowledge the importance in the changing values of a multi-cultural society, we still will not have succeeded in making this world into a sustainable, smarter and more humane place to live.
In this season, I find myself cornered into using the word NEW out of a kind of frustrated defeat in my purview of all the inexplicable compromises and imperfections in most of the current incarnations of phones, pods, pads and all those other emerging technologies. I am truly at a loss for words in explaining the glaring shortcomings that I see in every new popular device we are pressed to joyously buy for the holidays. In the stores, I listen to shoppers and salespeople whine in exasperation, “ It’s just new. They will fix it in the next version.”
Instead of quietly accepting all the obvious shortcomings and the promises of this supposedly extraordinary age of breakthroughs, I do not want to become an apologist for the universe of “the possible, but not quite realized.” It is becoming increasingly clear again this holiday season that someone needs to speak up and make a simple declaration that states that the most ubiquitous, fastest, and most convenient combined with our appetite for just about anything that’s declared new is not the best foundation for the emerging sustainable society.
I have lived in a state of relentless technical discovery, discard and replace, for more than a half a century. I remember zips and jazz drives, the mini disc, cd’s and DVD’s, then 300 gig drives, then 750’s, then 1TBs and 8TB’s, now solid state drives and the cloud. I also recall television and radio, LP’s, cassette tapes and even 8 tracks. Now it’s all screens and ITunes. Prices keep coming down on all the things that are uselessly behind the peak of the tech curve, while the next new desired drive, monitor and gadget continually stays expensive, if not constantly becoming slightly more expensive through the diabolical conspiracy of feature creep, advertising and planned discontinuation.
I know this makes me sound old, but I am beginning to feel like the whole world needs to go to tech rehab and admit they cannot manage their lives without the next gadget or version of the iphone. The problem is that there seems to be too few people criticizing our increasing dependence on technology, and blindly consuming everything will probably not fix the economy. I don’t really want to live in a “Skymall” future world.
Between the two poles of technological hell and helplessness, there must be some place of stability, moderation and a hope for the future that has humans drawing and painting, playing music on instruments, reading books, families eating dinner together, talking about how we might live a better life. My friend replaced his Iphone this year with a device that is just a phone and I haven’t seen him running back to Apple crying that he misses the aps, AT&T, or the opportunity to tweet twenty four hours a day.
So…now I seem to grow a little more tired year after year. Tired of being on some corporation’s technology treadmill with the same announcements of the faulty and the disappointingly new and I am more often to a greater extent dismayed by the planned and engineered limits of whatever any new gadget is or has. Every six or so months every single miraculous thing is quickly and indelibly made obsolete, and then improved again by whatever the next version offers.
I long for a thing that begins to resemble a tradition in making things. Something that’s like a Gibson SG Standard guitar or my 8 x 10 field camera which wasn’t antiquated or made completely unworkable every six months by engineers working in secrecy on some crazy, obsessive concept of incessant development in the service of never-ending exploitation. Where is the useful thing that isn’t just another time bomb planned for abandonment by the same corporate wonks that made it, just so that they can make more money by the object’s celebrated and predictable retirement?
A new and more sustainable idea might be to move things just slightly slower, consider whether a plan for progress is an interim development or is it truly a remarkably real and innovative achievement. We might begin to create some ethical criteria for the evaluation of what is a compromised improvement or something that is the real revolution that moves the whole society forward. We might reconsider, define and embrace what is essential, really progressive and maybe even human.
So if you make something, just make it great. If it really is essential, then so be it. But if indeed, something is merely a small step forward, maybe you should just keep working on it. Refine it. You test it out. Keep it to yourself, shut up and keep working. When it’s really ready, then show it to me. You have my best wishes for the season and we could remain friends.